I have been training a medical assistant (MA) to become a lead MA. One responsibility is interviewing new MAs. I started out interviewing them as she watched me and then she interviewed and I watched. Each time, we had a debriefing session and went over the entire interview and what I was looking for and more importantly what I was thinking and why. It was similar to teaching medical students how to look at thyroid results and lead them to a diagnosis of hypothyroidism.
I found some very interesting conclusions. When I analyzed our interviews, I kept coming back to the same thing. The short answer is it does not matter what you ask, it’s more important how you feel about the candidate. Can you hold a conversation? Can you go to dinner or drinks and discuss anything? It was like a date. Similar to how a partnership is a marriage. This is a date. It became about their personality. It was HOW they answered the questions. It was all in their non-verbal cues. How they sat. How they held their hands. You don’t have to break all of this down. You just felt it.
I asked someone “Why should I NOT hire you?” They did not flinch. They were so confident and gave a very typical answer “There is no reason that you should not hire me. You should hire me right away because…. this and … that….” But, it was the WAY she responded. The confident voice, the way she carried herself. It was amazing.
The second thing which was the most important for me was what questions they asked us. This is the most interesting. It’s always going to be about benefits most of the time. Pay rate, insurance, time off, hours operation, etc…. However, every now and then, you get surprised. “What is an endocrinologist?” “How is that different than other doctors?” Wow! You realize very quickly why you like that question. You like these questions because they are thinking! You want thinkers. You don’t want people that are robots and will do what you tell them. You want people who will handle things when things fall outside the routine.
My best interview was my dietician. The interview was very dry and boring and did not feel like I was getting along on our date. Then I allowed her to ask me a question. She said, “What is the culture of the practice?” I nearly passed out. Here you have someone that is worried about how she will fit in and she is actually picturing herself in her job. But, as an owner, this is my highest priority. The culture. I preach this to my managers all day. We have an Amazing culture which we are very proud of. Now, you have someone that cares about culture as much as you do. I made my decision to hire her as soon as she asked this question. The entire interview turned. Now, it’s been a year, and she has been amazing.
If the first question is, “What are the benefits?”, it’s not going to go well. Worse yet, they don’t ask any questions. That is just as bad. You want thinkers.
The other thing I try to train my lead MA is that will they fit here where they did not fit elsewhere. Ask questions about why they left and what they are looking for and see if it’s a good fit. Other good questions I have found are below with some pointers.
Tell me about yourself and what you are looking for?
This is a great opener to get a sense of who they are and can you trust them and get along with them.
How did you hear about us?
Did they go online and research about your practice? If so, that’s great! They are thinkers.
Why did you leave the prior workplaces?
Get ready for the lies. Brace yourself.
What is your salary history and what are your expectations?
Just a good question to see what they want.
How do you see yourself in 5 years?
Believe it or not, I usually hire the ones that want to become nurses or strive for higher things. Yes, they will leave eventually, but these are the best thinkers and hardest working. Who knows, they may stay longer than you think.
If you have a large enough practice, this becomes easier, especially after you hire. The bad candidates either leave very early or you fire them very early. It’s because your culture is so strong, they will not fit in.
Dr Rakesh Patel